Last weekend was a tenth birthday for the smallest person in our family. We took a trip to see Undress, the exhibition on the history of underwear at the Victoria and Albert museum. The historical timeline was short – perhaps people didn’t have underwear more than a couple of centuries ago or we don’t know much about it. The early hoops were intended simply to keep dresses from contact with the hidden nethers. A lot of the history of women’s underwear is about control. Asked for her highlight, my daughter picked out the oddness of a corset marketed to be worn when cycling. However, she became bored and found the atmosphere stuffy. She dragged me out to sit in the main gallery, drawing Rodin’s bronze distorted contorted amputated Muse, and the passers-by on the broad stairs behind.
The rest of the family carried on round the galleries but small person wanted more time to draw sculpture. Her sketches are of the bust of Helen of Troy, and an unidentified statue next to Rodin’s Muse (in which I feature, sketching). My drawing is of Alfred Steven’s full size plaster model for the “Truth and Falsehood” bronze, part of Wellington’s monument. She was also drawing random people looking at the displays.
We caught up with the family in the gallery of theatre costumes – by then she was using my phone camera, but I stopped to draw in pen and water, tinting this with watercolour later, on the train home.
On the train, she watched Monty Python’s film Jabberwocky, with smiles chasing each other fleetingly across her face. I tried drawing her, but once again I have made her too old and I could not catch her humour or rapidly changing expression. Perhaps this is a foretaste of her appearance in her late teens, waiting to go into an exam.